More than 1,330 employees at video game maker Activision Blizzard have signed a petition calling for the resignation of longtime CEO Bobby Kotick, who has been accused of ignoring complaints of alleged sexual harassment from female workers.
Among the signers are game animators, artists, designers and testers across the Activision, Blizzard and King divisions. The workers said in a statement Friday that they no longer have confidence in Kotick and that his alleged mishandling of sexual harassment cases runs “counter to the culture and integrity we require of our leadership,” the employees said.
“We ask that Bobby Kotick remove himself as CEO of Activision Blizzard and that shareholders be allowed to select the new CEO without the input of Bobby, who we are aware owns a substantial portion of the voting rights of the shareholders,” the employees said in the petition.
The push for Kotick’s removal gained steam after a Wall Street Journal article this week claimed he had been aware of alleged incidents — including reports of rape — involving Activision employees but did not disclose them to the company’s board of directors or to shareholders.
Some activist shareholders are also pushing for Kotick’s ouster. In a letter on Wednesday, they said Kotick must step down and asked Activision’s board of directors to start searching for a replacement “immediately.”
Kotick and the company have dismissed the claims in the Journal article, which Activision said was misleading in a statement on Tuesday.
Kotick sent a video message to employees this week addressing the article. In it, the executive credited employees of the company with pushing to improve its workplace culture.
“The second thing I want to say is that anyone who doubts my conviction to be the most welcoming, inclusive workplace doesn’t really appreciate how important this is to me,” Kotick also said in the video.
Activision is known for creating the popular video games Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. The company began as two separate entities — Activision and Blizzard — that joined forces during a 2008 merger with now-defunct Vivendi Games, the former parent company of Blizzard. The company has about 9,500 employees worldwide, 20% of which are women.
Kotick, 58, served as CEO for Activision between February 1991 and July 2008. In 2008, he became the CEO of the newly formed company, called Activision Blizzard.
The controversy surrounding Activision started in July when the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing said that a two-year investigation by the agency had found evidence that company leaders had ignored sexual harassment cases. The agency, also known as DFEH, also filed a lawsuit against the company, which is headquartered in Santa Monica.
Since then, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also filed a suit against Activision, which the company settled in July after agreeing to create an $18 million fund to compensate workers who were harassed or discriminated against. The Securities and Exchange Commission in September opened a probe into how the company handled and disclosed sexual harassment complaints.
For now, Activision’s board still appears to support Kotick, saying in a statement on Tuesday that under his leadership “the company is already implementing industry leading changes including a zero tolerance harassment policy.”